Mathare Valley has many characteristics that are defining. When you walk out of the Missions of Hope International (MOHI) Pangani Center and into the slums, you immediately feel a difference. You can feel the heat from open cooking fires and from the sun reflecting off of tin metal houses. You can smell the trash piles and the water running toward the river that is filled with anything you can possibly imagine. You can hear people shouting in Swahili, “Mzungu!” (white person) or the one English phrase they know, “How are you?” This got me thinking about what my defining characteristics are. When you look at me, you might see my impatience. You could see my hot temper. You could see my lack of grace.
But, thankfully, those things are not characteristics that define God. And when you leave Pangani for an area of the Mathare Valley slum, you can see characteristics of God. Because God is truly transforming this place. In some areas, it is easier to see transformation than others. But when areas are open to God, amazing things can happen! The same is true of us when we surrender and let God transform us. The characteristics that defined us before are being changed. He is making all things new.
Surrender is never an easy thing for me. I have to try long and hard. It’s a lesson I have to learn at least once a week. And, let me tell you, it has been a daily learning since I arrived in Kenya almost a month ago. In the November 3 reading in My Utmost for His Highest Chambers wrote, “Will I surrender to Jesus Christ, placing no conditions whatsoever as to how the brokenness will come?”
Recently, my mom shared with me a prayer to welcome the Holy Spirit into your soul and into your situation and to allow the Spirit to take over. Sometimes, I have to repeat the prayer 20 times before I can surrender and let the Spirit have control. It’s horrible. And I’ve caught myself with the mindset that I’ve already surrendered my life enough by moving to Kenya that I don’t need to surrender anything else. Hello!!! This is certainly a time to be surrendering constantly, pushing my desires and my conditions for brokenness aside and allowing the Spirit to do transforming work in me. How can I expect to do anything here if the Spirit is not in control? Without the transforming work of the Spirit I will always be defined by the same old characteristics.
Things have been different than expected here, which, ironically, I expected. But it has forced me to remember to surrender. Rebekah, Rachel, Megan (my teammates and roommates), and I have been helping with the Child Sponsorship program to help get Christmas gifts to children and Christmas cards to their sponsors. We’ve also gotten to take pictures of new recruits at the various centers, students whose lives are about to be changed by God through MOHI . Not what I expected to be doing but still so, so, so great and so important for the future of these children!
It’s in the moments when I look into the face of a child and see their brokenness – but also see Jesus – that I remember why I came here and why I’m passionate about being here. Seeing God in others in Kenya has also helped me to remember that God is in me too. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” I’ve heard these words from scripture so many times but I need to keep hearing them. It’s hard for me to surrender because I forget and don’t acknowledge that the Spirit is in me. I will never realize that I’m not my own if I don’t realize that the Spirit is in me. Only the transforming work of the Holy Spirit can change my heart and the characteristics that define my life. Jesus takes our brokenness and turns it into something beautiful. That’s why I’m here.